by Norris Burkes
Posted Oct 1, 2017

Before Hurricane Maria last week, I would’ve told you that Puerto Rico is a beautiful place. At least that’s what my wife, Becky, discovered when she and my daughter, Sara, visited there in 2010.

By day, they set course to as many beaches as possible. When they weren’t snorkeling or reading a book, they navigated the roads around the island. By night, they rowed into the bioluminescent bays where bacteria stirred up a soup of Christmas lights.

Amidst the fun, they took time each day to plan their next stop. Sara is fluent in Spanish these days, but wasn’t so much back then. She occasionally misunderstood some seemingly inconsequential details in their bookings.

Their planning worked pretty well until about the fourth day when they’d spent too much time in the blistering sun. Both feverish, they desperately followed a recommendation toward a quiet, air-conditioned hotel.

Somewhere not far from the beach, they took a wrong turn on a midnight road. They found a motel, but it didn’t seem as classy as the one recommended to them. It was configured in an odd way with individual garages for each room. Nevertheless, they were eager for sleep, so they pulled into the driveway.

Instead of finding a reception room, two men came to their car window to ask $25 for admission. My daughter paid and was motioned to pull into an open garage attached to the hotel room, much like a condominium in the states.

The garage door closed behind them, and my wife and daughter stepped into their well-lit hotel room with suspicion. At first it seemed they’d found what they needed — a shower, a clean-sheeted bed and an air-conditioner.

However, after finding no blankets, my wife quickly saw a seedy side to the windowless room. There was a mirror on the ceiling. There was a box resembling a medicine cabinet that opened to the outside air. Next to the door was a menu for various lotions, condoms and other paraphernalia.

Wow. I guess you can say Sara was booking for love in all the wrong places

My sunburned family was too tired to be bothered by such transgressions. They locked the doors, covered themselves with towels and fell fast asleep. The phone rang loudly at 6 a.m. with a frantic caller declaring that their time had expired and they must leave.

Later that day, they made some detailed inquiries with locals. Apparently Sara had become lost in the translation and missed a critical detail in her travel fatigue. The “hotel” was a “love motel” popular in the Latin and Asian world. They are rented by the hour as places for both marital romance and adulterous rendezvous.

Why would a chaplain share such a sordid story in a spiritual column?

I confess, like advertisers who use sex to get your attention, I tell you this funny story to get your spiritual attention. The people of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are stranded on an island hit with apocalyptic devastation. They need real love, not the empty love of “I’ll pray for them,” or “They’re in my thoughts.”

They need our hands, our monies and our resources. They are us. They are Americans. If you care about your fellow Americans, please help Puerto Rico, too. See the Time Magazine list of charities for Puerto Rico at

“Shouldn’t we help Florida and Texas too?” you ask. Good question. My personal favorite that gives 100 percent of your donation to help all three places is One America Appeal. This charity was started by all our living past presidents and is supported by the current one. Donations are best made online at

Show them our love. Give today.

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